The aim of this study was to obtain information about the quantitative distribution of salivary mutans streptococci and the relation to dental caries in children with contrasting levels of natural water fluoride. A total of 698 schoolchildren aged 12 yr were selected from areas with high (1.2 ppm) or low (0.1 ppm) fluoride concentration in the drinking water. They were all examined for the presence and number of mutans streptococci in saliva by a specially prepared plastic strip, the "Strip mutans" method, cultivated in a selective broth. Data on the caries experience were obtained from the dental records and from bite-wing radiographs. Mutans streptococci were identified in 82% of all children with no difference between the two areas. The number of mutans streptococci was however significantly (p less than 0.05) lower among the children from the high fluoride area than those from the low fluoride area. Children with no detectable or low levels (0-10 CFU) of mutans streptococci had less caries experience than children with moderate or high levels (11- greater than 500 CFU) in both areas investigated.